Selecting computer mindtools: usability of a web tool for constructivist learning – a qualitative perspective



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Texas Tech University


A number of media selection models have been introduced over the last few decades. These models were designed to assist educators and trainers in selecting the most appropriate media for an instructional situation. A common assumption undergirding these models is that instruction is based on a transmission model of learning in which an instructional medium (e.g., computer, teacher, television) delivers or transmits an instructional message to a learner. This assumption is often inadequate for educators interested in selecting media for constructivist learning environments. From a constructivist learning perspective, students do not learn "from" technology, but rather "with" technology. The concept of learning with technology focuses on the intellectual partnership between the learner and the technology. Computer technologies applied in this manner are referred as Mindtools. Learners partner with Mindtools to engage and facilitate higher order learning and critical thinking. Mindtools require students to think in meaningful ways in order to use computer application to represent what they know. Using Mindtools in schools is often more feasible than other computer applications because Mindtools are relatively inexpensive and they are often readily available.
In order to help classroom teachers to make use of Mindtools in teaching, a web selection tool was proposed that intends to provide practical Mindtool lesson plans. This web tool evolved and was constructed based on the theoretic perceptions of this study and went beyond the constructivist approach of media selection models. The purpose of this study was to exam the usability of this web selection tool. It was to determine its ease of use associated with the users’ performance on required tasks and to determine of the users’ attitude (preference) toward this tool. Also, it was to understand users’ experiences with this new web tool to discover features that differentiate this new web tool from others on the Internet with which users have experience. The collected data were critical to drive the better improvement of this web tool and future research to be conducted.